Why Wasabi Matters to us on World Cancer Day

On February 4, people around the globe are marking World Cancer Day to show their support for those fighting the disease and campaign for more research and action.

According to World Cancer Day statistics, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, with 9.6 million people losing their life to the disease every year.

But at least a third of common cancers are preventable, and up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year with more strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment.

This year’s World Cancer Day theme is “I Am and I Will,” representing the impact we can all make as individuals on the battle against cancer, at a personal and global level.

It’s a theme that hits home with us here at Wowsabi. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we started growing wasabi on our family farm here in British Columbia, Canada, in the first place.

Let’s start at the beginning. Our family farm began life as a disused gravel pit, that we bought in 1998, with hopeful visions of bringing the land back to life.

It was an immense amount of work – the previous owners hadn’t looked after the property properly. The land was in a terrible state and completely dysfunctional when we embarked on our mission.

For many months we worked tirelessly to restore the land to health, and happily, with dedication and hard labour, we succeeded in giving the land a new lease of life and began running a successful pepper farm in the early 2000s.

With the land healthy once more, new opportunities bloomed, and we began to consider a new crop. Our researchers advised us wasabi might be an option, so we began learning more about its medicinal benefits.

And then, just as we were considering an exciting new future, everything changed. Two family members were diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, the future didn’t seem so certain.

But our family are nothing if not hard workers, and the pair dedicated themselves to beating cancer. Just as we had fought and overcome the challenge of restoring our land to health, they fought cancer in every way they knew how.

In conjunction with modern medicine, the pair sought complementary forms of treatment, and began taking wasabi in raw form and as pill supplements.

Thankfully, in both cases, their cancer went into remission.

We can’t say for sure that wasabi cured their cancer, but both of our family members believe that taking wasabi every day, combined with modern medicine, helped them fight it off.

And what we can say is that there is research out there that explains how wasabi could have helped our family members fight their cancer.

This research stems from the fact that cruciferous plants like wasabi contain more glucosinolates, a type of phytonutrient, than any other vegetables.

Usually, those glucosinolates are locked inside wasabi, but when you chew or grate the root, this causes an enzyme known as myrosinase to release them. These glucosinolates are then transformed into substances called isothiocyanates.

Also called mustard oils, these isothiocyanates are what gives wasabi its pungent taste and smell. But one isothiocyanate in particular, 6-MITC, has also been found by many studies to have the potential to help prevent cancer.

Research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM) in 2014 found the isothiocyanate inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer, while another paper published in Molecules in 2018 showed it stopped the development of oral cancer.

Further studies have now found that isothiocyanates may help prevent many different types of cancer, including breast cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer, and research into the anti-carcinogenic potential of cruciferous vegetables is ongoing.

Ultimately, as a family affected by cancer, thankful for our survival, we did our research too and soon after our family members recovered, we began growing wasabi on our farm. Now we are the only company in Canada with a licence to produce wasabi capsules.

Of course, the fight against cancer goes on, and as a community we must give the battle everything we’ve got. At Wowsabi, we are proud to say, “I Am and I Will” in support of this month’s World Cancer Day.

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